Crispina Kemp, author of the five-book epic fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game, and the newly-released Learning to Fly (available 1st April 2021) is visiting Sammi Loves Books to answer a second set of Afternoon Tea Interview questions.
So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…
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So what have you been up to writing-wise since we last spoke? What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?
Since last we spoke, I’ve been busy with Learning to Fly – no, I don’t mean I’ve earned a pilot’s licence. Learning to Fly is the title of my new book. My critique partner is hard to please; she’ll find every little plot hole and complain at me if I have “soft” chapter endings. All of which has involved loads more work when I thought it was done. And then the “polish edit” which is my prime delight, to make the manuscript sparkle.
Do you listen to music when you write or do you prefer to write in silence? Do you create playlists for the stories you are working on?
I always have music playing; I can’t imagine writing in silence. And yes, I do create playlists according to the story I’m writing. With The Spinner’s Game I listened to Pagan Rock and Mongolian Metal which seemed to fit the setting. With Learning to Fly I played Hard Rock (what the MC Neve calls Music with Muscle). For my work-in-progress (Roots of Rookeri) I’ve lightened up with what might be called Sing-along Rock.
Do you have any writing rituals? For example, writing first drafts with a special pen, or writing with a special candle lit?
My only writing ritual is to make sure I have a fresh cup of coffee to start me off. After that first one I tend to forget the coffee until it’s cold! Also, I check emails and Twitter before starting each day… and the weather forecast. I prefer to write in the mornings and will get up at 4:00 am to do so. But even if I sleep in, I like to be writing by 8:00 am. I’m a morning person, that’s when my brain is most creative.
Do you set yourself writing goals and targets? Do you find it easy to stick to them?
I don’t set myself targets, except to say, “Today I am writing from 8:00 am until noon,” or such. However, I do have “To Do” lists. Top of today’s list is to answer these questions for Sammi. Top of tomorrow’s list is to revise/rewrite the supplementary material for Roots of Rookeri to send to beta readers for their opinion of whether to include in the book or not.
Have you read any writing craft books / articles / blog posts etc to help improve your craft? Which ones have you found the most helpful?
I have read loads of craft books. After a virus wrecked my brain (way back in 2005) I was left unable to write above a few words. Since I had to learn that basic skill again, I decided now was a good time to delve into craft books too. In the years leading up to 2005, structure had been my downfall. Also, back then, I was a panzer – or rather a knitter. I’d start with a thread and follow it to where it led; mostly to dead-ends or chaos.
The craft books I’ve found most helpful – and these I recommend because I believe as writers it’s not enough to know how to do something but also to understand why we do it:
– Save the Cat! Write a Novel, Jessica Brody
– Between the Lines, Jessica Page Morrell (having worked out the structure, here’s how to finesse it)
– Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them, John Yorke
– The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall, not a craft book but highly recommend.
What was the last book you read and what were your thoughts on it? Would you recommend it?
The last book I read was The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. A murder/mystery which centres on what we would recognise as a paedophiliac affair and yet is the most beautiful love story I have ever read. This was well beyond my comfort zone; I was led there by a fellow author whose comedic spoof-books use a spoofed version of the MC of Dicker’s book. And yes, I do recommend it.
Do you prefer reading e-books or physical copies of books?
E-books or physical? Difficult to answer. I have a problem with my eyes (waiting for an op) so the ability to adjust font size and boldness is important to me, especially since I most read at night when my eyes are already tired. However, I find the physical book so much easier to navigate, eg: to check back on a passage that you suddenly realise was important.
Do you organise your bookshelves? If so, by what criteria?
Do I organise my bookshelves? Yes. First, fiction resides in the bedroom, which keeps the main shelves free for everything else. Everything else falls under the headings of Literature, Folklore & Mythology, Psychology, History, and Reference books. Within the Reference section are books and books and books on symbols. The History section is divided into archaeology, prehistory, Middle East/Egypt, Europe general, then Britain by dates covered. Homer sits in the Literature section with Beowulf and Roland, Chaucer and Mallory.
In the first interview we closed by discussing a fantasy afternoon tea, with you choosing who would attend, where it would be and what would be served. This time round, we are talking about a fantasy book club. If you could host a fantasy book club where would you hold it? What beverages and snacks, if any, would be on offer? And, most importantly, what would your chosen book club read be and why?
Where would I hold a fantasy book club? There can be but one answer: In Middle Earth, in the Shires.
What beverages and snacks? I know from when I hosted a Community Workers Lunch there must be snacks. Being gluten-free my first thought is to offer a range of nuts, but I wouldn’t like to be responsible for someone having an anaphylactic shock. Therefore, I’ll have to settle on potato crisps. And fruit: cherries, strawberries, pineapple. As to beverages, water. Ok, I’m a health freak, I admit it.
My chosen book for the club to read is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V E Schwab. “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets” (taken from the book’s blurb).
Why this book? Apart from Schwab is a genius of a writer, it has an interesting structure, weaving back and forth in time until the unexpected ending. The imagery sets the imagination on fire. The MC Adaline (Addie) captures the heart and draws the reader into her strange world to share her entrapment. A quick look at the reviews on Goodreads shows how many readers got lost in the book as well as in Addie’s world. It’s a delightful challenge, well worth the read. It would be a great book to discuss.
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About Crispina Kemp
Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.
But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.
In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).
Resident in Norfolk (UK) where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.
On Twitter: @crispinakemp1 and @ineebrown51
If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.